“What the—what’s going on, Iris? Th-that is not Paul.” Gigi spluttered.
“He followed me home,” I said, deadpan. “Can we keep him?”
Gigi eyed the tousled dark hair and the broad shoulders.She smirked and opened her mouth to speak.
“Don’t finish that thought, whatever it is,” I told her, my finger in her face.
“Who is this person?” Cal asked, his voice sleeproughened and gruff.
“This is my sister. Gigi, this is my client, Cal. Just Cal, like Cher, with fewer plastic parts. He ran into a little trouble last night and had to stay here. It’s just a temporary situation.”
“That you can’t tell anyone about,” Cal added hoarsely, his voice hovering on the edge of intimidation but not quite making it. “That you can’t tell anyone about,” I echoed, nodding.
Gigi’s eyes shifted between the two of us. “OK. Cal, can I ask what you’ve done to my sister?”
Now it was Cal’s turn to splutter. “I haven’t done anything to her!”
An impish light flickered in Gigi’s eyes. “Well, then, I’m sort of sad for her.” She ignored the indignant hiss from my side of the counter.
“How much to make her go to her room and stop talking to me?” Cal asked.
While I gaped at his rudeness, Gigi coughed a rather obvious “douchebag!” into her fist. I caught her eye and shook my head emphatically. Douche-coughing someone with superhearing was not a responsible choice.
Gigi rolled her eyes and cleared her throat. “I meant, how did you persuade my sensible, hyperrational sister
to let you move in, even temporarily, without a plan or an end date or a chore chart?”
“Money,” Cal muttered, sipping his blood. “I’m always surprised by what people will do for money.”
Gigi’s oceanic eyes widened in alarm. She whirled on me. “I thought you said we were doing OK!”
I shot a significant look at Cal, who was oblivious to the distress he’d just caused my anxiety-prone sister.
“We are doing OK,” I insisted. “This will just help us build a little cushion between OK and good.”
Cal snorted, taking another drink. “It should be a bit more than a little cushion. I’m sure it will let your sister take care of all the little things she’s been neglecting around the house.” At my indignant gasp, he added,
“It’s nothing to take personally. Most start-up businesses don’t show a profit before—”
“Gigi, would you mind going upstairs while I discuss a few things with our guest?”
My thin, forced smile made Gigi flinch. She turned to Cal. “You’re in for it now. The last time she smiled like
that, she told off Mary Anne Gilchrist’s mom for piercing my ears without permission. I don’t know what she said, but Mrs. Gilchrist turned white as a—”
She huffed and rolled her eyes. “You know I’m going to listen at the door, right?”
“Go upstairs and pack a bag.”
Gigi sighed and stomped up the steps to make a point. The point being that she was a big, adolescent pain in my butt.
“Do me a favor,” I said, rounding on Cal. “Keep your opinions about my house and my financial status to
yourself. Gigi worries.”
My icy tone made Cal’s brows arch. I could see the protest forming on his lips, but instead of objecting, he
said, “Excuse me. I wasn’t thinking.”
I nodded curtly. “How are you this afternoon?”
He sat heavily on a bar stool near the counter and leaned close to the giggling-caterpillar cookie jar. It struck me as a little funny, this big, manly vampire all docile and grumpy in our admittedly feminine kitchen.
“Weak. Nauseated. Like I could fall back into my daytime sleep at any moment. I only came up to get more
blood. The trip up the basement steps took an alarming amount of effort and concentration.”
“I could put a cooler in your tent, if you’d like. It would save you some trouble. But are you sure it’s a good idea to drink more blood if you’re sick to your stomach?” His brow crinkled. Clearly, he didn’t understand my question. I’m guessing it had been a while since he’d had a tummy ache. “When humans are nauseated, they usually avoid eating so they don’t throw up.”
“Yes, but I’m not human,” he responded snidely, as if the implication was insulting.
I ignored the haughty tone. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, considering the surroundings.”
I chose to ignore that, too.
“What is this?” Cal inquired, looking up at the hanks of herbs hanging from the ceiling to dry.
“Cuttings, from my garden. Lavender, chamomile, mint. I like making my own herbal teas, sachets, potpourri, that sort of thing. And Gigi gets heat rash sometimes. Lavender baths help.”
His eyes narrowed at me. “You seem to know an awful lot about plants.”
I scoffed. “Yeah, that’s right, I poisoned you. I’m part of a mass antivampire conspiracy. And then, after I
tampered with your blood, I snuck back to the scene of the crime, stumbled over your unconscious body, and took you back to my house, all so I could become your domestic servant. I am obviously the greatest
criminal mastermind since Ponzi.”
He snorted but didn’t say anything further. I let the kitchen steep in silence for a few beats. Cal didn’t
seem to be doing much better than the day before. His hands shook slightly as they gripped the donor blood.
His shoulders were slack, as if he had trouble lifting the weight of his head.
“Do you feel strong enough to take a shower?” I asked.
“There are still some, uh, red spots on your face. And your back. Plus, you kind of have a bedraggled-zombie thing going.”
Cal frowned, surveying his wrinkled clothes and rubbing a hand over his equally furrowed face.
“If you think you’ll have trouble standing that long, we could get you one of those shower chairs,” I offered.
“You mean the kind that senior citizens fall off of, never to get back up?”
“I’m willing to risk standing,” he said blandly.
We had a full bath on the ground floor, which was good, because despite the bottled blood, Cal seemed too
pale and shaky to take another flight of stairs. After covering the windows with foil, I made sure he had fresh
towels and waited outside the bathroom door while the water warmed up. I heard the shower curtain sling
across the rod.
A few moments passed, and I heard him call, “I don’t suppose you have soap that doesn’t smell like fruit or
flowers or some combination thereof?”
“Sorry, this is a girlie household. You’re lucky there’s not a Disney princess on the label,” I said, glad that there was a door between us to keep him from seeing my snickering. There was a faint grumbling noise while the shower started up.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster, I have one (1) print copy of The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires to give away. The contest is open to US Residents only. To enter, leave a comment with a valid email address. Giveaway ends 8/1.
Release date: July 31
Click on the link to view the book trailer - http://www.simonandschuster.